Microsoft Lets CPGs Target Users Based on Store Purchases

Big CPG companies are used to pitching products based on recent in-store purchases. You’ve seen the coupons: A dollar off six rolls of Brawny if you bought Bounty towels. Two-for-one on StarKist tuna if you bought Bumblebee.

Less well known, but almost as common, is the practice of serving online ads based on such purchase data. Yahoo has done it for about seven years through its Consumer Direct program, courtesy of an offline data partnership with Nielsen. In the years since, advertisers have grown increasingly comfortable buying online media this way, leading other large Web companies and ad networks to do their own versions.

Now Microsoft is getting in on the act, some would say belatedly. Last year the company launched its own pilot program, CPG Online Effect, with data from Nielsen. This week it’s expanding the program through a relationship with comScore’s new Audience Advantage for CPG.

“Through the pilot, through listening to customers, [we decided] to look at ways to expand this program. That’s how we started this dialog with comScore,” said James Colborn, Microsoft Advertising director.

ComScore’s program works by linking loyalty card purchase information to its 350,000-strong online panel. Campbell Soup and Alberto Culver are among the first advertisers to make use of the newly merged data, creating segments that combine in-store purchase data with Internet attributes like geographic location, online shopping behavior, and search activity.

Microsoft is the first customer in comScore’s consumer packaged goods vertical, and will have exclusive rights to its Audience Advantage for CPG data for one year. It will use the data to support CPG campaigns on MSN, Windows Live, and its other properties.

The benefit to publishers of blending online and offline data doesn’t end with direct ad targeting. By matching comScore’s data to its users’ online profiles, Microsoft can create “look-alike consumer segments,” which can then be packaged and sold to brand advertisers interested in people with purchase habits directly measured by comScore’s Audience Advantage for CPG.

“Data from comScore will give us information we can turn into a segment,” said Colborn.

The practice can rapidly improve online campaign effectiveness, if Yahoo’s experience is any indication. According to Nielsen data shared by Yahoo, the average Consumer Direct campaign resulted in 50 percent more short-term sales per impression than the average non-Yahoo Consumer Direct campaign.

While the use of offline purchase data to deliver online ads has been around for some time, the practice is gathering steam as more Internet companies – and digital-savvy agencies – team up with offline data providers.

Late last year, Nielsen paired with data firm DataLogix to allow hyper-targeting of online ads using Nielsen’s audience cluster PRIZM data. It was the PRIZM data’s first use for online ad targeting.

Shortly thereafter, New York-based WPP Digital began using combined offline/online data from its Kantar division properties, Compete and Cannondale Associates, to support media planning activities.

Kate Kaye and Christopher Heine contributed.

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